Minutes of the first General Assembly of the EMA

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The first General Assembly of the EMA was held on 26 September 2003 at the XIV Congress of European Mycologists, Katsiveli, Crimea, Ukraine. The meeting was chaired by Dr David Minter, with Dr Tetiana Andrianova and Dr Reinhold Pöder present as the panel who prepared the consultation document. The minutes were taken by Mrs Patricia Taylor-Hawksworth and Dr Andrianova. Approximately 120 people were present. Draft minutes were circulated to all Founder Members in March 2004 and all corrections received have been incorporated.

Dr Minter (UK) opened the meeting and proposed that the meeting move directly to page 9 of the consultation document that had been included in the Conference Packs. The proposal was unanimously accepted.

Dr Minter explained that Dr Eef Arnolds (Netherlands), Dr Pöder (Austria) and himself had been instructed to prepare this report by the XIII Congress of European Mycologists meeting in Alcalá de Henares (Spain) in 1999. Dr Arnolds could not attend the XIV Congress, but Dr Minter stated that he had seen the report and welcomed its presentation to the meeting. He went on to thank Dr Tetiana Andrianova (Ukraine), a member of the Executive Committee of the International Mycological Association for her help in compiling the report and all her work for the congress. With the agreement of the meeting, he read out aloud the proposals on page 9 of the report, then opened the floor for discussion, first inviting those who had been involved in preparing the report to contribute.

Dr Pöder emphasised the need for a European association and exclaimed, “let’s do it”. Dr Andrianova added that other regional mycological associations already existed, for example those for Asian and Latin American countries, and that it seemed appropriate to unite mycologists from eastern and western countries in Europe also to form their own association. Dr Minter commented that the British Mycological Society was founded by field mycologists and professional systematists and that they had worked together for more than 100 years.

Professor Trond Schumacher (Norway, President of the International Mycological Association) complimented the group for taking this opportunity to work towards the formation of a European mycological association. He felt it was a shame that one did not exist before. He observed that mycologists throughout Europe have many different interests and while field-related mycology had been the major interest of the present series of congresses, the members here, as founders of the association, were from very varied areas of the subject and could provide a strong organisation that would take care of systematics and taxonomy but at the same time grow so as not to be an exclusive organisation of field systematists: it should also cover, for example, population genetics and experimental mycology. Those present should not be afraid that they would be eaten up in a larger group. Future congresses would be organised by and reflect the interests of the members. The way forward was not to exclude people.

Dr Pöder remarked that systematists should not be "eaten" by other disciplines, but that equally members of the new association would "eat" themselves if it did not include all disciplines of mycology. Biological science, he said, could be described as, "who is playing what game, where and why? Who is out there (i.e. in different disciplines)? How do they function?"

Dr Minter then introduced Professor Alina Skiergiello (Poland) who had attended every single Congress of European Mycologists She found it too difficult to speak publicly on account of her age, but was kindly represented by Dr Maria Ławrynowicz (Poland), who said she held generally positive view about the proposed association, and considered it a good time to be setting up the association since Europe was no longer divided. She believed both eastern and western European countries should be represented among those organizing it.

Professor Irina Dudka (Ukraine) considered it an historic day. She said that Ukrainian mycologists would support a European association. She had attended every session of the Congress, and also the pre-congress meeting of the Committee for Fungal Conservation in Europe. She and all Ukrainian mycologists were very proud that the European Mycological Association was to be created at the XIV Congress which was being held in their country. She believed that it was appropriate to have this new association originate from the shores of the Black Sea and from there spread through to all parts of Europe.

Dr Alexander Kovalenko (Russia) said that some years ago, when he knew less about his European colleagues, he had believed that a European association must already exist and that he had found it strange to learn that this was not the case. There were mycological associations all round the world, but not one formed in Europe.

Professor Reinhard Agerer (Germany, President of the German Mycological Association) reported that German mycologists supported the idea. Indeed, he felt all supported the idea of forming the new association. We now had the chance to form it and so we should take the chance, both for the people here and all mycologists, so that mycologists from both the east and west could see what each other are doing. The best thing was to come together to form a new family: now that we had established a unifying ring around us we could move forward.

Professor David Hawksworth (Spain, UK, representing the British Mycological Society) felt it would be useful to provide some historical background. After the International Mycological Association was established in Exeter (UK) in 1971, the second International Mycological Congress in Tampa (Florida) in 1977 launched the idea of facilitating the setting up of regional mycological groups. The Latin American, Asian, and African mycologists were all encouraged to form such groups and these were established during the 1980s. This was not done for Europe primarily because the Congress of European Mycologists series already existed and at that time it was the wish of that Congress to continue as a macromycete event. This view has changed over the years, and in 1992 when the Congress was held at Kew there were many formal and informal discussions about how it could evolve. Professors Pegler and Ryvarden were much involved at the time, but the ideas never came into fruition. Subsequent Congresses of European Mycologists have represented a wider range of mycology, and now they are positioned to become the hub of mycology as a whole in Europe. The establishment of new organizations had to come from the constituents, and so it was right that everybody here was involved in the decision to form the new association. By also serving as the International Mycological Association's Committee for Europe, the new body would also be affiliated to that association and so to the International Union of Biological Sciences. The Council of the British Mycological Society had discussed the matter, and was supportive in principle of something being done. However, they were aware of many bodies and meetings taking place in Europe which were wholly or partly concerned with mycology and were concerned as to how they would work together. Professor Hawksworth then observed that, personally, he would like to see some of the existing specialized European initiatives linked to the new association. He continued by saying that the British Mycological Society was also concerned about membership, as they felt it unlikely that many British mycologists would be willing to pay to join another association so some alternative to personal membership needed to be considered, although these were details for future discussion. The British Mycological Society did not want to see anything established that might cause divisions within the mycological community, so felt it would be helpful to contact other societies to get their inputs. In particular, the Federation of European Microbiological Societies needed to be approached to avoid problems at an international level. He counselled the new association to move cautiously and try to work together with other groups, and looked forward to seeing an even larger and more successful next Congress.

Dr Cvetomir Denchev (Bulgaria, President of the Mycological Society of Bulgaria) said that Bulgarian mycologists support the idea, and that he considered it an opportune time to establish an association.

Dr Stephanos Diamandis (Greece), having read the report, spoken to colleagues and listened to previous speakers was in no doubt that this association was welcomed. It was the Ancient Greeks who coined the phrase “strength is in numbers”, so with this thought, mycologists and mycological societies all over Europe should become united and in this way have the power to move forward and promote mycology. They would then be able to introduce and support conservation issues for threatened species of fungi on their own and not always rely on botanists. In his view, it was preferable to have an organization of broad scope, with a wide membership, promoting mycology and including national societies.

Dr Siranush Nanagulyan (Armenia) considered she was from perhaps the smallest country represented at the congress, and stated that while they did not have any mycological society or association, mycologists in her country supported this very good idea and would be glad to participate in all the meetings and initiatives of a European mycological association.

Dr Mirian Gvritishvili (Georgia) said Caucasus mycologists would also be glad to participate in such a European mycological association.

Professor Francisco Calonge (Spain, President of the Sociedad Micológica de Madrid) reiterated that the idea of the new association had been promoted at the previous congress in Madrid in 1999, when it was suggested that it should be founded as soon as possible. He believed there was now the opportunity to do this. This was important because when one published in systematics on one side of Europe - when one thought there was a new species in western countries, one might wonder if it were already known in eastern countries. With a new association it would be easier to establish answers to this kind of question. Further, if western European mycologists were now in a position to help those in eastern countries they should do so, and also to help each other. This was a duty. He said that in Spain there were more than 300 mycological societies but no national one. On his return he undertook to ensure that all would be made aware of what the members of this Congress were trying to do.

Dr Minter, noting with regret that there were no delegates from France, invited Dr André Fraiture (Belgium) to present the Francophone viewpoint. Dr Fraiture felt it was clear that almost everybody present welcomed the idea of a new association. There was a good spirit at this meeting and he did not want it to be lost: its richness should be carried forward to congresses. The example of the British Mycological Society was a good one to note, it had started as a society for field mycologists, but now represented many experimental scientists, and it should be remembered that they produced The Mycologist and Field Mycology to reach different parts of their membership.

Ms Sara Branco (Portugal) observed that it was often easy to feel isolated and to lack support as a mycologist in a country like her's. Young people entering mycology had no security and mycologists needed to think carefully about how the new association was structured to make sure that mycology was fully promoted.

Professor Johannes Wöstemeyer (Germany) said, "let's simply do it!". He believed the association should provide a broad house for its membership, but that it was also necessary to catch money where money was to be found: in other words, to involve in the active life of the association those branches of mycology which are rich.

Dr Claudia Perini (Italy) felt that having a European association would help make the work of mycologists stronger: the existing network of the European Council for the Conservation of Fungi, the ECCF, was eagerly awaiting this decision; she believed it was necessary to collaborate within the community, and she hoped the need to unify and collaborate would be realised.

Mrs Christine James (UK) explained that she was attending the Congress as an amateur with a 20-year long interest, not as a distinguished mycologist, but (in reference to earlier remarks) one that was not easily eaten! As an ecologist her job was to look after the places where fungi grow, something that it was important to do for the benefit of future generations. She wished to remind the new association not to forget the non-professional mycologists.

Professor Leo van Griensven (Netherlands) felt the new body should try to be a scientific home for anybody in mycology, and that Europe should be looked at in the broadest possible sense irrespective of where people happened to live and what they study. All disciplines, he said, need each other. Mycology did not receive the funding it needed, and considering all the different processes that use fungi, mycologists should be more effective in lobbying for funding. The new body could help here. He counselled the association to make sure that it had a strong section on applied mycology as there was much money in antibiotics, edible fungi, beer and wine, and the companies with interests in these areas were good sources of funding for mycology.

Dr Andre de Kesel (Belgium, Flemish Mycological Association) said he had been trying for years to bring together the Flemish mycologists. It took 10 years, but he eventually succeeded. What they found they had to have was a common task because of the huge differences in the approaches of the different groups. So it was important to be able to identify this task. They found groups had been working in parallel in different countries but did not know what each other had been doing. The new association's function should therefore be to promote east-west collaboration in mycology in a democratic manner.

Dr Pöder assured those present not to worry, as the association would certainly be democratic and workable and would form its own future in a democratic way. He reiterated, “let’s do it!”

Dr Andrianova brought the discussion to a close by explaining that if the session decided to have an association, everyone present would all be founder members and also be able to help the association move forward. There were countries represented at the Congress that did not have a national mycological organisation or society, and the establishment of the European association could help them to have one set up in their own countries. There were many different reasons why mycological organisations were absent in countries, for example, in some countries mycologists were still represented by botanical societies. A general movement towards a wide-ranging European mycological association would help the mycologists in such countries to reorganize.

Dr Minter then read out, point by point, the proposals on page 9 of the report, and they were each voted on in turn, as follows:

Resolution 1

This congress resolves to establish the European Mycological Association

Agreed unanimously
Resolution 2

This congress resolves that the objectives of the Association will be to promote all aspects of mycology within Europe by organising periodic congresses and by other means as will from time to time be determined

Agreed unanimously
Resolution 3

This congress resolves that the Association will have a Constitution and the powers to make Rules for governances of the Association

Agreed unanimously
Resolution 4

This Congress resolves that the initial membership of the Association shall be the founder members, namely those present, and that other members may be admitted subsequently in accordance with the Association’s Constitution and Rules

Agreed unanimously
Resolution 5

The founder members appoint a President, a Secretary, a Treasurer, and other delegates to form an initial Executive Committee (Steering Group) charged with preparing a draft Constitution and Rules

Agreed unanimously
Resolution 6

The Founder Members instruct the initial Executive Committee (Steering Group) without delay to consult founder members, European national mycological societies, international mycological societies, and other bodies, as appropriate during preparation of the drafts, then to circulate the drafts to the founder members, modify the drafts in line with comments received, circulate the modified drafts, and seek adoption of those modified drafts by democratic voting. The founding members accept that a system of postal and electronic votes may be used to ratify the first constitution and rules

Agreed unanimously

The European Mycological Association was thereby established to enthusiastic applause.

Professor Dudka then opened discussion on the appointment of the Officers as identified in Resolution 5, and proposed that Dr Minter should be one of the officers. Dr Diamandis seconded this, suggesting that Drs Minter, Pöder and Andrianova should be the Officers. Dr Nanagulyan supported this suggestion. Dr Pöder declined the proposal that he be Treasurer and nominated Dr Diamandis instead.

These proposals met general approval. Dr Minter then invited nominations for other members of the initial Executive Committee (Steering Group). Mrs James proposed Professor Schumacher. Professor Schumacher thanked her, but declined as his position in the International Mycological Association kept him sufficiently busy; instead he proposed Professor Hawksworth, who accepted. Dr Pöder proposed Dr Agerer, who accepted, then Dr Agerer suggested Professor Calonge. Professor Calonge declined due to his many commitments. Professor van Griensven proposed Dr Kovalenko (who accepted), and Dr Minter suggested Dr van Griensven and Professor Manka proposed Professor Ławrynowicz, both of whom accepted. Professor Calonge nominated Professor Parmasto who was able to accept. Finally, Dr Diamandis proposed Dr Perini who also accepted.

Professor Dudka then put the following resolution to the plenary session of the Congress:

Resolution 7

The Founder Members appoint Dr Minter as President, Drs Andrianova and Pöder as joint Secretaries, and Dr Diamandis as Treasurer, and charge them with forming an initial Executive Committee to prepare a draft Constitution and Rules

Agreed unanimously
Resolution 8

The following persons be constituted as the founding Executive Committee: Professor Agerer, Professor Ławrynowicz, Professor van Griensven, Professor Hawksworth, Dr Kovalenko, Professor Parmasto and Dr Perini

Agreed unanimously

Dr Minter proposed that Dr Eef Arnolds (Netherlands) be considered a Founder Member, although absent from the Congress, in recognition of his contributions to the establishment of the new association. This was agreed unanimously.

Dr Minter then closed the Plenary Session.

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